Pobst, Saini secure Autobahn triumphs

Randy Pobst and Jason Saini scored the SCCA SPEED World Challenge wins this weekend at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet. Pobst survived several yellow flags and a host of accidents in the GT race, while Saini led from flag-to-flag and held off...

Randy Pobst and Jason Saini scored the SCCA SPEED World Challenge wins this weekend at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet. Pobst survived several yellow flags and a host of accidents in the GT race, while Saini led from flag-to-flag and held off his competitors on a late race restart to take the Touring Car win.

The two-time defending GT champion, Pobst earned his first victory of the season in a Volvo S60 for K-PAX Racing. He had not previously finished better than second this year in what he deemed a developmental year for the S60.

"There are a lot of corners here, and if there was one place we thought we had a chance to win, it would be here," an elated Pobst said. "Our challenge was to get this 2.5-liter, 5-cylinder car with a big, ol' turbo on it and all-wheel drive to get off the corners fast enough."

Finishing behind him were series points leader Brandon Davis in a Ford Mustang Cobra and Brian Kubinski in a Corvette. Kubinski made only his second start of the season today, having finished 16th in the season-opening race at Sebring.

"The pendulum swings both ways," Davis said. "I never would have believed we would be able to come home with second here."

Pobst didn't have a great start from second, slipping behind the Porsche 911 GT3s of pole sitter James Sofonas and Tony Rivera. But then it all came together for Pobst, as he passed Rivera and then Sofronas got off line in turn two and Pobst slipped through.

"On the start the car didn't want to go," Pobst admitted. "I got a good run off, and I figured at that point it was now or never! I dive-bombed Rivera, then Sofronas got loose and suddenly I was in the lead."

There was some chaos when Tony Gaples crashed in turn two. Gaples went straight off and nosed his Blackdog Racing Corvette into the tires, an unfortunate end for the race sponsor (Blackdog Speed Shop).

A double-file restart just afterwards featured more action as Rivera, who was running second, spun out in a scrum at turn one. Dino Crescentini, Gunter Schaldach and Eric Curran also had issues at this time, going off course.

The chaos elevated Kubinski from ninth on the grid to second, though Davis just got through not too long after. Kubinski realized Davis was going for points and didn't fight him too much.

"There was no sense tangling with him," Kubinski said. "It's just awesome to do this at my home track. I'm honored to be racing with those guys, it's about time!"

The Touring Car race saw Saini record his second victory of the season in his Tri-Point Motorsports Mazda 6, the first win from pole in TC this year. Saini held off his teammate, survived a frantic double-file restart, and drove away down the stretch to record the win in a weekend where Mazda is omnipresent within all seven series racing here.

"This was the first track this year we've been able to test before hand, and I think that was the difference for us," Saini said. "The car was not to our liking in practice but we brought it back for qualifying, and then have gone from there."

Peter Cunningham and Pierre Kleinubing, each driving an RealTime Racing Acura TSX, completed the podium finishers. Charles Espenlaub and James Clay rounded out the top five.

The race came down to a double-file restart, and a bevy of action occurred at that point. Saini got a slow restart and it bunched up the remainder of the 12-car field. Cunningham dove to the inside of Saini's teammate Eric Foss at turn one, and Foss slipped back even further when Kleinubing came charging.

Kleinubing and Foss each slipped onto the grass on exit of turn one and stayed in the green stuff until making it back on track at turn two. Kleinubing was able to keep his car in third place while Foss fell to seventh. The incident eliminated the possibility of a Mazda 1-2 finish, but the manufacturer has now tied Acura for the manufacturer's championship in class.

"Eric and I had a really good race," Saini said. "We just put in consistent laps. To be honest, I was looking forward to battling with him the rest of the way. I messed up the restart, I went deep into turn one and bunched up the field, so I apologize for that. Luckily I held (Peter) off."

Cunningham admitted his fortune was better than he anticipated on the restart. "It looked like we were only a third-place car," he said. "Being on the inside of row two, I was in a good position. I could have rammed Jason in the back, but it was just a straight battle. I certainly gave it all I had."

Elsewhere Andrew Aquilante in the field's lone Subaru WRX made a gutsy start to advance from seventh to fifth. His day ended early with a blown head gasket.

Also there was an intense battle for seventh between Espenlaub in the third Tri-Point Mazda and the trio of BimmerWorld BMW 328is, Clay, Seth Thomas and Nick Esayian. Espenlaub thwarted several attempts by Clay and Thomas to pass at certain points on the track, and Thomas later fell off the road with mechanical difficulties.

The unofficial Touring Car points have race winner Saini at 613 markers, with Kleinubing and Cunningham next in line with 567 and 561 respectively. The series moves next to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in two weeks.

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About this article
Series PWC
Drivers Randy Pobst , Pierre Kleinubing , Peter Cunningham , Eric Curran , Charles Espenlaub , Tony Rivera , Nick Esayian , Brian Kubinski , Tony Gaples , Brandon Davis , Jason Saini , Gunter Schaldach , Andrew Aquilante , Eric Foss
Teams Blackdog Speed Shop , RealTime Racing